Facebook isn’t dying but it needs to evolve more

This guest post is by Patrick Kelly, RMIT University.

 

Researchers John Cannarella and Joshua Spechler from Princeton University made headlines last week when they predicted that Mark Zuckerberg’s almighty Facebook would shed 80% of its users by 2017.

The study follows reports that more than 11 million young people have left the social media giant since 2011.

Facebook uncool?

Apparently parents have spoiled the fun, making the social network ‘uncool‘. These revelations seem disastrous for Facebook, especially when one considers the way Cannarella and Spechler, who are mechanical and aerospace engineering academics, equated the rise and fall of Zuckerberg’s empire to that of a disease.

(Check out Facebook’s blistering comeback.)

Nevertheless, debate has been rampant in the past week as to how valid these claims are: will the great and all-powerful Facebook burn out in just a few short years?

Contributing factors to the notion that users are abandoning the site are most certainly people’s concerns over privacy and advertising. This is not surprising at all.

As the internet progresses from a Web 2.0, driven by communication between its users, to a Web 3.0, which will be driven by cooperation with the system itself, we are increasingly foregoing the control we once had over our machines and our online selves.

We are told by experts such as artificial intelligence guru Ray Kurzweil that the more we use systems like Facebook, the more these systems will learn about us, thereby enhancing our own personal online experiences.

Tailored ads and privacy

Such automation means that we are starting to see advertising directed in a more sophisticated way, taking into account what we already ‘like’ when we’re online. For instance, the more you ‘like’ engagement announcements and wedding photos, the more ads you’ll see telling you where to buy wedding dresses online.

For some, this is a good thing. If we are going to be bombarded by advertising, why not make it advertising that is in line with our interests? For others, it feels like an invasion of privacy, where one cannot shake the feeling that their every move is being watched.

This feeling has only increased during the US National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance disclosures. In a recent update, Facebook even announced its new right to read Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) messages on its users’ mobile devices.

Add to these insecurities the forthcoming auto-play, full screen video advertisements that Facebook will use on mobile devices and we are starting to get an idea of how these revelations of the network’s demise came about. What began as an innovative way to connect with friends, family and colleagues seems to be flying too close to the sun.

Beyond advertising and privacy concerns is what Facebook is doing to our everyday behaviour and demeanour. The University of Michigan recently found through a study that the more people used Facebook at one time point, the worse they felt the next time we text-messaged them; the more they used Facebook over two-weeks, the more their life satisfaction levels declined over time.

Put simply, Facebook is making us sad. The only way to avoid this sadness, apparently, is to keep the social network out of our lives.

It all sounds rather dire. Why would we continue using a platform that seems to only use us for ad revenue and in return gives us the gift of depression? Maybe Cannarella and Spechler were right in equating Facebook to a disease.

One argument in favour of Facebook’s survival is that, while the Western world is starting to opt out, more and more users are emerging in Asia and Africa as access to technology grows in these regions.

Last week, Bill Gates pointed to the benefits of the digital revolution in areas currently affected by poverty, saying that such developments will help countries to “learn from their most productive neighbours and benefit from innovations”.

Such regions will develop quickly, partly as a result of the adoption of information and communication technologies (ICTs) such as Facebook, and this is a major area where Zuckerberg and his colleagues could do some good.

Not dead yet

It seems, then, that Facebook might not be going away any time soon. While its saturation of the Western world might be dropping, its presence is expanding in the East.

As we head towards Web 3.0, however, Facebook must engage with the best characteristic of new technology:

  • It must find a way to use automation to the advantage of us all
  • It must overcome the challenge of making us feel comfortable with a lack of privacy
  • It must be there when we need it, but stay out of our lives the rest of the time, thereby making us feel better about our own lives
  • It must invest in the wellbeing and future of citizens in developing nations
  • It must not force-feed us advertisements
  • It must act as both a safe and fun environment for parents and children alike
  • It must evolve with developments in technology, while also meeting the wants and needs of its users.

Only then will it ensure its own future. That sounds pretty easy, doesn’t it?

The Conversation

This article was originally published at The Conversation.
Read the original article.

Facebook still top dog overall but losing traction with youngsters: report

New stats from GlobalWebIndex show that Facebook is still top dog in the social media world in general, however there are signs that its rein may not last forever with small social media apps and messaging services rising quickly, especially among younger demographics.

The data shows Facebook has seen a decline in the number of people using it each month with the number of teenagers using the site falling in 2013, however the extent of the overall decrease in active users appears to be unremarkable with a decrease of 3% between Q2 and Q4.

Apart from in China, Facebook is still the number one social network in all parts of the world with 83% of global internet users being members and 49% of those using it regularly.

The research also found that compared to the other leading networks, its members are the most likely to visit more than once a day and to carry out a wide range of activities. Not bad for a social network that’s been around as long as Facebook.

Certainly, the site does have a number of challenges to face. When we look at the age profile of its members, it’s the 25-34s – rather than the much-coveted 16-24 group – who form the biggest share of active users,

The ageing profile of Facebook users appears to be shifting upwards with the 25-34 year-old age group being more active on the sight than their 16-24 year-old counterparts. This was possibly led by Instagram enjoying a 23% increase in usage and self-proclaimed “front-page of the internet” Reddit enjoying a 13% hike. Pinterest, Quora, Tumblr and Google+ all recording increases of 6%.

GlobalWebIndex founder, Tom Smith writes in a blog about the research that, “the biggest trend to watch is the huge growth seen for mobile messaging apps. While Facebook Messenger saw a global increase of 13% – and remains the most popular social tool competing in this space – there were much more dramatic rises is estimated user numbers for WhatsApp (+35%), Snapchat (+54%) and, most significantly, WeChat (+379%).”

“Usage is highest among the 16-24s for these messenger apps– indicating that the biggest challenge for Facebook and other major networks will be to maintain the interest of its increasingly mobile-first audiences within a social media landscape that is more diverse than ever,” writes Smith.

All figures mentioned here are global averages, excluding China. GlobalWebIndex conducts quarterly research across 32 markets, representing nearly 90% of the global internet audience. Check out the summary report on SlideShare:

GWI Social Summary – January 2014 from GlobalWebIndex

Facebook readying to launch video advertising

The Wall Street Journal is reporting Facebook has been quietly working away at creating another potential source of advertising revenue much to the delight of investors. The social network has been testing video advertisements that show will show up in users’ News Feeds.

Facebook says the new format will allow its advertisers to “reach a large number of people in a short amount of time, while also improving the quality of advertisements its users see in their news feeds”.

Investors appear to agree with the new plan with Facebook’s shares jumping to an  all-time high of $US55.18 in early Tuesday trading in the US.

The network is reporting a 10% increase in the number of videos watched, liked, shared and commented on since testing the silent auto-playing videos for video content shared between Facebook users since September.

Currently, Facebook features advertisements that automatically start playing without sound when they appear, users can then click on a video to view it with sound, or scroll past it if they’re not interested.

Facebook has not disclosed how long the ads will last however has noted that for mobile users the advertisements are preloaded only when the device is connected to wireless internet and will not consume additional data. No sound will play unless a user clicks or taps on the video.

 

Infographic: Annual Facebook Performance Report 2013

The official Facebook page for the country Australia topped the charts for both number of fans and engagement in 2013, according to the first ‘Annual Facebook Performance Report’ by social media automation tool Social Pulse. Meanwhile, radio and television topped the list of most engaged industries.

Top 10 Facebook pages by number of fans

  1. Australia 4,780,082
  2. Bananas In Pyjamas 2,601,677
  3. Hamish and Andy 1,952,338
  4. Bubble O’Bill Ice Creams 1,258,597
  5. Home and Away (Official) 1,209,734
  6. MasterChef Australia 1,161,103
  7. [yellow tail] 1,019,706
  8. Visit Queensland, Australia 998,792
  9. Coca-Cola Australia 975,613
  10. Domino’s Pizza -Australia 921,406

 

Top 10 Facebook pages by engagement (measured by average of seven-day figures 1 January to 1 December)

  1. Australia 242,380
  2. Babyology 79,543
  3. Fifi and Jules 71,163
  4. B105 67,660
  5. 9 News 66,847
  6. Sunrise 65,301
  7. 2Day FM 55,378
  8. Fox FM 49,142
  9. Black Milk Clothing 45,750
  10. Hungry Jack’s 40,082

 

The full report (link) contains more information including in-depth looks at 26 industries.

The infographic below covers key stats relating to the report, which analysed 119 million combined Facebook fans and 1710 top brand pages in Australia.

Updated_FB-Report-and-Awards-Infographic-2 (1)

Do marketers fake it before they make it? (Or, how to identify a genuine ‘expert’)

In a world where seemingly everyone claims to be an expert in something, how do you identify the real thing?

A friend and PR colleague recently revealed that his process for screening someone who claims to be a ‘social media guru’ is to first gauge how many Facebook or Twitter followers they have. In his mind, for this line of work, there is a clear correlation between followers and credibility.

Most of the people who responded to my friend’s post were in agreement.  I was one of a small minority for whom the concept did not rest comfortably. In my view, having a large number of followers is as likely as anything else to indicate the person is wildly popular or a ‘collector’. After all, studies reveal people use social media to satiate two primary needs:  1) the need to belong; and 2) the need for self-preservation.

Still, I’ve been mulling it over ever since and the serious question remains: in our industry how do you detect if someone really is an expert? Unlike other professions (accounting, law, engineering), and unlike other countries (United Kingdom), there is no embedded industry-wide accreditation scheme for marketers in Australia.

So here are a few tips to help you pre-qualify expertise:

1. To begin with, expertise implies a person has a great deal of experience. Experience comes with time. I’m sorry, it just does. So if you’re under 30, go ahead and shout from the rooftops that you’re a specialist or a budding expert but don’t wish your life away trying to convince yourself and others you’ve already made it.

2. There’s no international standard for job titles. These days, colourful titles are de rigueur.  Simply search LinkedIn for ‘Director of First Impressions’ or ‘Chief Inspiration Officer’ to see what I mean. On the flip side, it’s not uncommon to meet extraordinarily talented and successful people – individuals who truly are experts in their field – who have the most underwhelming business cards. Anyone who’s worked for an American company will know that the vice president title is about as standard there as manager is here. My point? A big title means little.

3. You have to use relevant measures to identify and assess expertise. Using my friend’s social media example, number of followers is an inadequate measure as they could be passive or even personal followers. More relevant metrics would be frequency of interaction, number of fans, or the person’s influence measured through Klout, Kred or PeerIndex scores.

4. Are they really an expert in what they claim? People often claim to have much deeper or broader expertise than they do. And they usually get away with it because those seeking to engage their services don’t have the industry or technical knowledge to know any better. As one authority eloquently pointed out, digital experts build business online; they don’t just create banner ads and microsites. You have to do your research.

5. Ultimately, of course, the most reliable measure is past performance. What has the person actually done or delivered before?  Ask them to be specific, to quantify the results. Ask for testimonials, references. Speak to existing or former clients. Scan their endorsements on LinkedIn. And most of all remember, the world’s changed and it keeps on changing so recency is the new currency.

 

Infographic: Telcos lead the way in responding to social media queries

20% of Australians have made a complaint about a product or service on a companies Facebook site, according to research released by SocialPulse.

SocialPulse, a social media data analytics agency, has released a comprehensive report detailing how customers use social media to make queries. The report also details what customers expect from companies and how companies are responding to social media queries.

As well as using social media to submit complaints the research shows 10% of Australians have taken to social media to gain assistance when trying to resolve an issue with a company.

SocialPulse reports that while Australians are heavy users of social media, it is still a relatively recent phenomenon that many companies are trying to navigate and understand how to use efficiently and cost effectively.

SocialPulse analysed the social media use and response rate of the top ten retail and telecommunications firms, through both manual and automated methods.

The study found that in one month Australia’s leading businesses received 693,606 queries, to which there was a 84.7% response rate. There average response time took 26 minutes.

Research found that telecommunications companies lead the way in responding to customers social media responses, with a 97.5% response rate. The average telco response time is far lower than the overall average, taking only three minutes.

Managing director at Social Pulse, Lucio Ribeiro, says companies need to ensure they are responding to all methods of customer communication efficiently and effectively.

“With massive penetration of social media channels, particularly Facebook in Australia, ‘channel bouncing’ is becoming the norm for consumers. There is a real need for companies to facilitate  consumer interaction across multiple channels,” Ribeiro says.

Similar research conducted by SocialPulse in the UK shows customers now expect their social media complaints and queries to be responded to at a faster rate than ever before. 42% of customers expect a response within 24 hours with 17% expecting to wait only one hour for a response.

Click the infographic to expand to full size.

SocialCustomerCare_Inforgraphic

Forrester says Facebook fails marketers, Facebook says Forrester fails at research

In a neatly-timed publicity play coinciding with Facebook’s quarterly earnings call, research agency Forrester has accused the social network of failing at social marketing, while Facebook’s response has called into question the research agency’s ability to draw logical conclusions.

A report released by Forrester has harshly criticised Facebook’s advertising performance, saying the social networking giant is failing to deliver on its promise and is instead retreating back to traditional advertising models. Facebook has responded by saying the report’s conclusions are at times illogical and irresponsible.

Forrester says the companies that market on Facebook are betting billions on the site’s potential and “buying into its promise to revolutionise marketing.” But in the report, released yesterday, analyst Nate Elliott, the report’s primary author, argues that Facebook hasn’t delivered on its promise and has, in fact, quietly become reliant on the traditional advertising tactics it once lampooned.

According to Elliott, Facebook no longer supports social marketing, doing little in the past 18 months to improve its branded page format, or the tools marketers use to manage and measure those pages.

Regarding the reasons marketers are dissatisfied with the social network as a marketing platform, Elliott says in an open letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg that it has abandoned social marketing, writing in the blog post: “First, your company focuses too little on the thing marketers want most: driving genuine engagement between companies and their customers. Your sales materials tease marketers with the promise that you’ll help them create such connections. But in reality, you rarely do. Everyone who clicks the like button on a brand’s Facebook page volunteers to receive that brand’s messages – but on average, you only show each brand’s posts to 16% of its fans.”

The report claims this results in Facebook doing more to disconnect than connect brands to their customers. “And worse, has admitted that fewer than 15% of Facebook ads leverage social data to reach more relevant audiences.”

The claims are based on a survey conducted by the independent technology and market research agency that asked 395 marketers from the US, UK, and Canada how satisfied they were with the business value they get from 13 different online marketing sites and tactics, including Twitter, Google Plus and YouTube, with Facebook ranking last.

Facebook has responded by labelling the report’s conclusions illogical and irresponsible.

“While we agree that the promise of social media is still in process, the conclusions in this report are at times illogical and at others irresponsible. The reality is that Facebook advertising works. That’s why we have more than a million active advertisers including all of the Ad Age 100,” a spokesperson said.

“And, countless studies have demonstrated the significant return on investment marketers see from Facebook. Our promise is to continue to deliver positive results for marketers.”

Facebook appears to be taking issue with the survey’s methodology, which lacked significance testing and was conducted using a screened, random sample of Research Now members, which is itself not a random sample, bringing into question the validity of its conclusions.

A copy of the $499 report obtained by Marketing contains in the methodology section the line: “This data is not guaranteed to be representative of the population, and, unless otherwise noted, statistical data is intended to be used for descriptive and not inferential purposes.”

Facebook is due to report its quarterly earnings Wednesday afternoon, US time (EST).

 

What ads will look like on Instagram

Instagram has announced what advertising will look like on the social media platform via a blog post published on their site today.

The advertisements will be marked with a ‘sponsored’ label where the time stamp would normally be.

“We want ads to be creative and engaging, so we’re starting with just a handful of brands that are already great members of the Instagram community. If you see an ad that doesn’t interest you, you can tap the “…” below it to hide it and provide feedback about what you didn’t like. This will help us show you more interesting ads in the future.

“Our focus with every product we build is to make Instagram a place where people come to connect and be inspired. Building Instagram as a business will help us better serve the global—and ever growing—Instagram community, while maintaining the simplicity you know and love,” Instagram wrote in the post.

An example ad from Instagram (pictured below) will start appearing on users’ timelines soon and will link to more information about the new Instagram advertising guidelines.

Instagram was purchased by Facebook earlier this year for US$1 billion but has until now never generated any revenue of its own. The photo sharing site also launched video capabilities in June which has been a popular feature for brands who have up until now, been able to post all of their content for free. 

Instagram advertisement

‘Crowd intelligence platform’ automatically learns from other SMEs’ social mistakes

A Melbourne social media marketing start-up called Tiger Pistol has announced the launch of what it’s claiming is the world’s first ‘crowd intelligence’ marketing platform, which takes the form of an automatic social media learning and scheduling tool aimed at telling small and medium businesses what they should be doing on social platforms.

The platform aims to provide a bespoke, pre-scheduled social marketing action plan generated in real time based on the best outcomes from thousands of real campaigns from other similar businesses. In other words, the platform learns from the success or otherwise of each campaign it handles and optimises a schedule of content for its users.

The company says it will focus initially on Facebook. Members sign up and certain information such as type of business, location, characteristics of typical customers, and the business’ current status on Facebook is captured. “Tiger Pistol then automatically generates a tailored program by analysing millions of data points to identify the actions with the highest proven success rate for other similar businesses with similar objectives,” the company said in a statement.

Tiger Pistol also announced it has closed a $1 million round of funding from Australian venture fund Rampersand and existing shareholders. The funding will finance the ongoing promotion of the newly expanded platform and the establishment of a Silicon Valley office.

Steve Hibberd, Tiger Pistol co-founder and CEO says, “We remove a headache and provide confidence to small business operators, helping them to be successful in just a few minutes a day. Most small businesses know they need to be on social, but have neither the time nor the head space to take advantage of it.”

“Where larges enterprises pay agencies thousands of dollars for their expertise, we offer a Crowd Intelligence platform using proven results that provides that expertise automatically for under $50 a month. This is the first time a business can affordably run a tailored, automated digital marketing program with a clear view of what it’s focused on achieving and why.”

Paul Naphtali, co-founder and managing partner of Rampersand adds,  “Social media marketing has come of age and it’s time small businesses had a tool as powerful as those built for enterprises, but with clear simplicity. Tiger Pistol has not only built a great product, they have created a new category in marketing platforms and we look forward to supporting company through its rapid growth.”

 

Instagram hits 150 million active users, ads on the way

Instagram has jumped from 130 million active users to 150 million users in just three months, the Facebook-owned social photo-sharing app has claimed. The 130 million figure, obtained from the last tally taken in June, also showed a huge growth from the previous February tally that registered 100 million active users.

“Whether it’s documenting protests in Egypt, sharing the trip of a lifetime across the United States or snapping #petselfiez, this community continues to surprise us every day with your creativity, sense of adventure and unique perspectives on the world,” Instagram says in a statement announcing the new statistics on Sunday.

Instagram, which Facebook acquired in a billion-dollar acquisition in 2012, has never made a cent for the business. Instagram’s director of business operations, Emily White has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal saying there is a plan for Instagram to begin to introduce ads within the next year.

Her challenge will be figuring out how to integrate marketing without damaging Instagram’s ‘cool factor’.

White told the Wall Street Journal,”We want to make money in the long term, but we don’t have any short term pressure [to make money].”

Instagram launched video capabilities earlier this year, a feature that has been hugely popular with brands and marketers.

 

Facebook finally releases local user numbers to prove its weight to advertisers

Facebook has released its Australian user metrics for the first time and proved just how much muscle it has in the Australian market.

Figures released this week based on different data points including IP addresses show that the social media site is checked by a staggering nine million Australians each day and has 12 million monthly active users.

Most of the major social media companies, including Facebook and Twitter, have previously refused to release detailed daily user figures. Twitter has never published national user figures, but it is estimated that there are approximately two million accounts in Australia.

The new figures confirm Facebook’s position as the most used social media platform in Australia. In a statement accompanying Facebook’s user data it says:

“A lot of people focus on monthly active users or even registered users to demonstrate their size and scale. Facebook sees this becoming on old way of looking at the media world. In this world, understanding who comes back at least once a month is only part of the picture. Instead, businesses should focus on people who come back online every single day, because that is how they live their lives. People are online numerous times in a single day and are constantly connected; creating, sharing and engaging with the content that matters to them.
For advertisers, this will help to create campaigns that can reach the right people at the right time on both desktop and mobile. Old ways of reaching people are becoming obsolete. Advertisers of all sizes should be able to reach all the right people and do it quickly and efficiently.”